FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 3 ‘Nikah ve Parti’ or wedding ceremony and party

Kina Gecesi and Gelin Alma are unique traditions for Turkish weddings. I not-so secretly wish we had the Gelin Alma ‘Fetching of the Bride’ tradition in the states! But alas, I am married and don’t really want to repeat any of that!  Moving on to part 3 of our Turkish wedding series, we finally arrive at the actual marriage signing ceremony, also know as Nikah in Turkish, and the after party!

After the morning dancing and bride pick up, the bride and groom prepare for the wedding near/at the groom’s home, each in their own way as needed (meaning that the bride takes significantly more time to have her makeup and hair done).  Then together the couple departs to take wedding pictures.

Since I was asked to be a witness in the wedding, I readied myself as well and was, needless to say, very on time for a not so on time cultural wedding. Turkish time tends to have more fluidity to it. I traveled with the photographer, his wife, and the other witnesses to watch them take pictures before heading to the wedding location.

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah
My handsome groom

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

The Nikah or marriage agreement in Turkish weddings have 2 to 4 witnesses. Our friends had two witnesses each: two for the bride and two for the groom. I had never seen or attended a Turkish wedding before so I was slightly nervous. They told me what to do and even though it sounded easy, I was worried I would miss my part because it was all in Turkish!

In the states, the ceremony can be done in a billion different ways, but in Turkey it’s pretty straightforward and the Nikah takes all of 5 minutes. The bride says ‘Evet (Yes)!’ The groom says ‘Evet (Yes)!’ And then all the witnesses are asked if they agree to the marriage and we say ‘Evet (Yes)!’ Then everyone takes turns to sign their signature in their pre-designated spot in a large government book to record the wedding ceremony. Next, the government official will hand the marriage booklet over to the newly married couple. If you ever see pictures of a Turkish wedding, you will see the couple proudly holding up the red marriage booklet!

So that is exactly what happened! After everyone arrived to the wedding (a good 1.5 hours ‘late’), the bride and groom were presented walking together down a very long red carpet with perfectly timed pyrotechnics. The witnesses were called up to join the ceremony (which I actually understood). Everything went well and everyone did their part by saying ‘Yes!’

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

The couple celebrated with their first dance together followed by more dancing with friends and family, needless to say, there is a lot of dancing through it all. My favorite dances are the circle dances where everyone joins hands and does a type of line dance! The usual cutting of cake came later and everyone enjoyed a slice of ice cream cake.

While all that seems normal to us, the next and generally last part of the wedding starts. After the cake, everyone lines up to congratulate the couple on their marriage and pin their gift to a ribbon draped around their necks. Instead of gifts from a registry like we have in the states, Turks give money or gold coins (which are worth different amounts). Most guests tend to leave after this but a smaller group of family and friends will stay to dance well into the night.

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

FunkTravels Turkish Wedding Nikah

 

And don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Turkish Wedding Series! Read here for more articles about Turkish culture and holidays. Lastly, for an audio version of the wedding, listen in to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a typical Turkish wedding? What was something that was different at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about these traditions?

What traditions have you observed at a wedding of another culture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 2 ‘Gelin Alma’ or Fetching of the Bride

People in America think weddings are a lot of work, and probably that their way is the best way to get married. Yes, yes, I will agree that there is a lot of planning for the American wedding, but it’s only one event!  But here in Turkey the weddings have way more too them.  I mean, I am writing a 3 part series about our first Turkish wedding!

I wrote about how the Turkish wedding starts with the Kına Gecesi or Henna night. But now I will move on the the actual day of the wedding. The morning of the wedding day, we met the groom for a Turkish wedding tradition that I had not heard about before, the Gelin Alma or Fetching of the Bride.

The morning of the wedding the groom goes to receive his bride from her family so that they can start preparing for the wedding. This is mostly for family and close friends. We were honored to be invited. For this particular ‘Gelin Alma,’ the groom’s family hired a drummer and, along with his band, he played music outside the groom’s house. After a while, we all packed up in the car and caravanned over to the bride’s house, honking horns and having our emergency lights on. Upon arriving, the dancing  started up again to let her family know we have arrived (because the car horns didn’t do enough…).

Eventually, the groom and his immediate family (mom, dad, and sister) went to get his bride. It tends to be a very emotional moment for the bride’s family, and it was, of course, true for this bride and her family as well. For many Turkish women, they do not move out of their family home until they are married.  To make the moment lighter, the brother of the bride will joke with the groom about why he is here and pretend to not let him into the house! But eventually the groom gets his bride. The bride’s brother also places a red ribbon around his sister waist as a symbol of the ‘Maidenhood belt’ and bride.

 

Everyone cheered as the groom exited the building with his bride (still crying!) and the dancing started up again (yes, on the street in the middle of a neighborhood). The bride’s tears were ones of sadness but also happiness! It made me tear up as well! I remember how excited I was to marry Jason, but also knowing it could be difficult too!

After sufficient celebration, no more tears are seen and only happiness is left. Everyone is ready for the wedding celebration! The groom gathers his bride’s items for the day and their honeymoon and are now ready to prepare for the wedding.

I LOVED this tradition. It was such a beautiful way to start off the day of celebration! It allows for a time of grieving, of leaving your childhood home and family, and a time to start the celebration and excitement of marrying your groom! In America, there is a tradition (not always followed now) that the bride and groom will not see each other until they are fully ‘wedding’ ready. Everyone thinks that first sight is the most important. But I loved when the groom goes to take his bride to prepare for their wedding together.

Don’t forget to read Part 1 of the wedding series! For a sneak peek into the rest of the wedding, listen to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a ‘Gelin Alma’ at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about this tradition?

What traditions have you observed at a wedding of another culture?

 

 

CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 1 ‘Kına Gecesi’ or Henna Night

Have you seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The family is slightly crazy and everyone has an opinion about how and what should be done for a wedding. Turks and Greeks are very different, I know, but here in Izmir, they share some of the same history. So naturally, I thought there could be some characteristics matching the quirkiness of that movie!

This month we went to our first Turkish wedding.  While the huge family part was there, I didn’t experience any of the craziness I thought our first wedding would entail. All the details were, for the most part, well planned and went off without a hitch (except forgetting the bride’s going away dress I think)….

It was sweet and beautiful, and everyone had a great time!

There are 3 major parts to the Turkish wedding, 5 parts if you want to count the marriage agreement and the engagement ceremony. Our friends were already engaged when we met them. Therefore, we will start our wedding series with the Kına Gecesi or as I say in English, the Henna Night.

Traditionally, this event takes place the night before the wedding and was only for the ladies, a bachelorette party per say… but with your whole family (not American style). This ceremony is a time to celebrate the bride and saying goodbye to her family. During this time she is the center of her family, and she moves on to be the wife of her groom and becomes the center of her groom’s family. The groom attends for a short time in the middle when the henna is placed on her hands (hence the henna night).

However, modern times call for modern changes. Our friends’ Kına Gecesi had a mixed crowd (guys and gals, young and old). I’m sure there are different reasons for each family as to how they perform the ceremony and what everything means.

Shortly after we arrived to the hotel where the party was taking place, the bride and groom were announced together and the dancing started! It was a lively, joyful scene that continued for an hour or so. Guests came and went from the dance floor, and so did we.

About halfway through the evening, the bride changed from her modern red dress into a traditional Ottoman style red dress for the ceremony. The bride and her ladies (all adorned with a scarf or head piece and candles) come out and danced for the groom. The henna is brought by a lady in the groom’s family (one whose parents have not been separated) and presented in a silver dish surrounded by candles. The lady will place the henna on the both the bride’s hand along with a coin, fold her hands closed, and wrap them in red decorative bags. It is known as the blessing of happiness or “basi bütün” (not a literal translation). Are you curious about why henna was used in the ceremony?  Henna’s red color symbolizes sacrifice and a readiness to give your life and blood for God (or one another in this instant).  Other guests can place henna on their hands as well if they want, which I was told is a way for others to remember to pray for the couple’s marriage. The bride will then dance with her groom and others will follow suit.

 

The party went well into the night which is very typical of any Turkish gathering. Dancing, singing, and chatting are 3 great pastimes in Turkey and a part of any good party. It was a great party and a fun way to start off the wedding festivities!

For a sneak peek into the rest of the wedding, listen in to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a ‘Kına Gecesi’ at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about this tradition?

What traditions have you observed at a wedding of another culture?

 

HOLIDAY: Cinco de Mayo and Hıdırellez ?

 

Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May) is an interesting holiday in the states. Technically, it is not an American holiday but it is now celebrated widely by eating at a Mexican restaurant while enjoying a margarita (which I am totally not opposed to!). In my high school Spanish class, we would celebrate by making food and celebrating the culture. Interestingly enough, it is not really celebrated in Spanish speaking countries!

Which brings me to the 5th of May here in Turkey…

At dinner the other night with some new Turkish friends, the husband shared a unique childhood memory he had of growing up in Izmir. His friends would all spend the evening of May 5th on the coast. They would light a fire in an old tire (where they got this, I have no idea…) and then take turn jumping over the fire making wishe. Interesting, huh?

Super intrigued, I started asking questions about it. Ultimately, I decided to research it more at home. Here is what I found.

What is Hıdırellez?

Hıdırellez celebrates the beginning of summer. Also called Ruz-ı Hızır (or ready day), it is said that on the day before summer starts, Khidr and Elijah meet on Earth and fulfill the wishes of others. In order to get your wishes fulfilled, it is traditional to jump over a fire.

  • So, who is Khidr?  From what I read, Khidr literally means ‘The Green One’ and he symbolizes freshness of spirit. Some say he was a person or a prophet while others say he was an angel. He is popular in Islamic lore as the people who found the fountain of life and now lives to give wisdom and guidance to those who call on his name.
  • And who is Elijah? Elijah was a prophet of God who was sent to ancient Israel and told them to repent of their sins and return to God. Elijah did not experience death, but instead God took him up to heaven at the end of his life. Most of what I know about him is from the Bible, but as Muslims, Jews, and Christians all share the same history, it is no surprise that he is also found in the Quran.
  • Sidenote: (From my knowledge, Khidr is not found in the Judaism nor the Bible and from the forums I read, he is mentioned only in Quran and the Hadiths.)
Photo credit to Hurriyet News

Where did it come from? Who celebrates it?

Everything I read was very unclear as to the start of this tradition and the main cultures it applied too. The day seems to be celebrated even before Islam and into the early ages of the Balkan areas, Iran, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia. Now is it widely considered a Turkish-Islamic traditions with traditions stemming from different regions.

How is it celebrated?

Hıdırellez is usually celebrated in green, wooded areas, and possibly by tombs. Fresh spring veggies and lamb are the traditional choice of food. Prayers are generally traditional and are recited. Wishes are hung under a rose tree with slips of paper or ribbon. Some believe you must say the Hıdırellez prayer for the wishes to be accepted. However, the most common tradition is to light a fire and jump through it. Jumping through the fire on this day is a sign of goodness and will protect you from disease and injuries. From the prayers and jumping over the fire, it is believed that Khidr will bless you in the places he touches.

Photo credit to Hurriyet News

Prayers recited

Hıdırellez wishes are to be hung from to the branch of rose tree: “Allaah, Lord, the People of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet Muhammad, the Promise or the Rapture” prayer is to be read 39 times by May 5th, the remaining one prayer is read on May 6th.

Photo credit to Sabah News

Here are messages you can send to your Turkish friends for the day:

  • Hıdırellez bayramınız kutlu olsun! Happy Hıdırellez Holiday!
  • Havalar gibi yüreğinizde hep sıcacık olsun. Hıdırellez’de dilekleriniz kabul olsun. Always be warm in your heart like the air. May your wishes at Hıdırellez be accepted.
  • Aylardan Mayıs, günlerden Hıdırellez; gününüz hep güneşli talihiniz hep bol olsun. Hızır gününüz kutlu olsun. From May to May, from day to day; Always have plenty of sunshine for your day. Happy day!

So that’s it! Having lived in Istanbul for 2 years already, I was surprised to hear about this holiday! I mean, I know there is so much more to learn about the culture and holidays then I was able to learn in my short time of living there. However, jumping over a fire seems like one I would have heard about for sure!

Turkey readers:

  • Have you heard about this holiday?
  • Do you celebrate or know someone who still celebrates this holiday?

Non-Turkey readers:

  • What do you think of this holiday? Have you heard of it before?
  • Do you have any friends who celebrate this day?

 

Photo credit to Sabah News

Read more about it:

This would be the most interesting post: Posta News (Open in Google Chrome for English translations)

Sabah News (Open in Google Chrome for English translations)

Hurriyet (Open in Google Chrome for English translations)

Wikipedia – Hıdırellez –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hıdırellez (Can’t be used in Turkey right now)

Wikipedia – Khidr – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khidr (Can’t be used in Turkey right now)

 

 

HOLIDAY: Children’s Day “Çocuk Bayramı” in Turkey

National Cupcake Day, National Pancake Day, National Caramel Day, National Be Kind to a Stranger Day…

Jason and I recently listened to a podcast episode about holidays in America. It seems like all of these “National Holidays” came out of nowhere and we have no idea how they got there. But this episode explained how they all came to be. The short story is that Congress passed a lot of commemorative days back in the ’80s, but now a holidays are submitted to a calendar company for unofficial approval for just about any holiday you can think of.

But moving on…

because, you know, we now live in Turkey…

and there are a couple things you should know…

1. There are a few unique national holidays here that we don’t usually celebrate in the states. (or at least, I didn’t)
2. Turkey is serious about their National holidays.

Which leads us to Turkey’s national holiday in April known as Çocuk Bayramı.

Çocuk Bayramı, also know as “Children’s Day”, is a BIG HUGE deal. There is also a “Gençler Bayramı”, Youth Holiday, here in May, and all the school shut down for it… (P.s. – you just learned like 3 new Turkish words there! Çocuk – child, Genç – youth/young person, and Bayram – holiday)

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT.

So what is Çocuk Bayramı?

The official name of this holiday is “National Sovereignty and Children’s Day“. In Turkey, it is held on the anniversary of the founding of the parliament in 1920, the holiday is viewed by Turks as a gift from Ataturk not just to Turkish children, but to children of the world (Told you, MAJOR bigtime).

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

So what happens?

Schools have special ceremonies to celebrate the day. Children all over Turkey dress up in special outfits or the national costume for Çocuk Bayrami. Boys who dress in the national costume typically wear baggy silk pants, a colorful vest, a white shirt and a sequined hat, called a tepelik. Girls wear a long colorful gown called a kaftan and an ornate veil. Many children perform in plays or musicals. We actually saw a large group of about 500 kids practicing for a ceremony.

Since 1979 the centrepiece of the holiday, TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Cooperation) and the state TV company sponsors a worldwide children’s festival in Ankara.  Children from many nations are invited to Turkey to take part in the creative and beautiful events. You can read more about it here.

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT.

In the past, over 150 different countries have participated with about 30,000 children. While it is usually celebrated in Ankara, in 2000 other big cities of Turkey such as İstanbul, Antalya, İzmir, Bursa, Konya, Gaziantep, started their own celebrations. This year, Children Festival will be held April 18-26 in a city called Nevşehir which is in the central region of Turkey . About 30 countries are expected to participate to this festival. I encourage you to check out more pictures here.

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT.

 

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

 

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT

The celebrations do not stop there. Hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, and practically everyone else celebrates by having festivals or shopping sales! It is a huge celebration for families here which is a central part to the culture.

So if you are in Turkey, be on the lookout for children’s events near you! A few events I found in Izmir:
List of events via sehrincocukhali.com
Folk Art Towers
Mavi Bahçe
Swiss Otel

Questions for the readers:

Turkish readers:
How did you celebrate Cocuk Bayramı this year?

Non-Turkish readers:
Do you have a National Children’s Day in your country?
What is a cool holiday you celebrate near you?

 

Children Day Celebrations. Picture credit to TRT